How Often Do You See Your Doctor?

Julie Shenkman
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Heading to the doctor whenever you're feeling under the weather may seem like a good idea. However, as with avoiding doctor visits when they're truly needed, seeking them when they're not can do more harm than good. Patients and health care professionals need to keep a few things in mind to avoid unnecessary treatments and ensure every doctor visit is beneficial and worthwhile.

The Dangers of Overtreatment

There's no question that needless doctor visits waste time and money, but they can also lead to unnecessary tests and treatments, particularly the administration of antibiotics. According to U.S. News and World Report, roughly one-third of antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings aren't needed. When patients go to their health care providers for ailments such as acute bronchitis and the common cold, which generally don't require medical treatments, doctors prescribe antibiotics roughly 50 percent of the time. Although the problem has gained plenty of attention in recent years, doctors continue to prescribe unneeded antibiotics on a frequent basis. These medications can cause side effects ranging from diarrhea to skin rashes, and their overuse can lead to the perpetuation of superbacteria that are extremely difficult to treat.

Knowing When to Go In

One of the best ways for patients to prevent unnecessary treatments is to stay home when a doctor visit isn't warranted. There is no cure for a common cold, so when classic symptoms such as a runny nose and a sore throat appear, patients may want to think twice before heading over to the clinic. Home care and over-the-counter medications are often all that are needed to treat cold symptoms until the cold passes. However, if symptoms worsen or don't pass after about seven days, visiting the doctor may be a good idea. Online symptom checkers can be a useful tool in helping people decide whether to go in for treatment, but these tools often advise users to seek medical care even when it's not needed.

When Annual Exams Aren't Necessary

Although the annual physical is still a common practice, several health associations, such as the Society of General Internal Medicine and the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination, have recommended that healthy patients abandon it. Frequent doctor visits throughout the year make the practice unnecessary, and many health care professionals may decide with their patients that a regular exam is only needed every few years. Patients with underlying conditions should see their physician on a more frequent basis.

Taking too many antibiotics and using unnecessary treatments can spell bad news for patients. Fortunately, avoiding doctor visits for mild conditions, such as sinusitis and the cold, as well as thinking twice about annual exams, go a long way in curbing the problem.

Photo courtesy of Praisaeng at


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